Wednesday, April 22, 2009

CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE is every bit as offensive as you have heard that it is. The humor that permeates this film is more shock-value based than actual belly laughs. HIGH VOLTAGE is an episodic collection of WTF moments loosely strung together rather than a fully realized narrative. Like the first Crank, it is a mean-spirited project that wants you to like it. Unfortunately, the ugliness is too complete this time around.
The biggest problem with HIGH VOLTAGE is the sell that it has to do to explain the sequel. Jason Statham's Chev Chelios dies at the end of the original CRANK. He dies appropriately and unquestionably. There is no need for a sequel. Consequently, as HIGH VOLTAGE attempts to gain its footing, it forces a series of add-ons and patches to help the viewer make the jump. Oh, the flamboyant gay friend that Chelios used as a human bullet shield? Viola! That guy has a brother. Oh, bald-headed Verona? He has a brother too. And how did Chelios' girlfriend hook up with Corey Haim and become a stripper so fast? Oh, Chelios was out of commission for 3 months.
Suspension of disbelief is the biggest pill you will have to swallow while watching this sequel. Suspension of disbelief was merely a tranq dart to the glute in the first Crank; in this one it is a horse pill with no chaser.
What drives the silly plot architecture is the ridiculous premise that Chelios has a mechanical heart and needs to find his real heart or he is going to die. Chelios needs bursts of electricity to get from A to B to C. At times this is amusing. Generally, the method of storytelling does have a worthwhile effect. The completely frenetic editing and action throughout is a style that fits the plot perfectly and can be exciting to watch. But the film ultimately misses because Chelios is never humanized.
In the original CRANK, Chelios calls his girlfriend as he falls like lightning and tells her he loves her. It is a moment of sweetness before he bounces and splats. By the end of HIGH VOLTAGE, Chelios has gone full-sociopath. He has no idea who his girlfriend is and his behavior mirrors that of Jason or Michael Meyers. There is a thread of hope that he will get his heart back, but until the next film, Chev Chelios has lost all traces of his humanity.
Perhaps this is because he has no heart. When Chelios finally opens the box that supposedly contains his heart, PULP FICTION and THE REPO MAN are referenced with an unnamed/unseen item that elicits a response from the characters in the scene. In PULP FICTION, the response to the glowing item in the suitcase is one of awe. HIGH VOLTAGE counters with a response of repulsion and a pointed query as to why such an ugly item would be carried around.
There are all sorts of wisps of substance buoying this movie however. Video-game themes still run rampant. The CRANK franchise is begging the video game industry to make a GRAND THEFT AUTO out of it. Porn-stars picket for higher wages, a scene which contributes to the amalgamation of mainstream pornography with mainstream film. The Godzilla-esque fight at the power factory suggests that Crank 2 is now how America is making its monster movies. All of these elements are presented with varied antagonists regularly screaming "F-YOU, CHELIOS!" That statement is a constant reminder throughout the film how much Statham's character is hated. There is even a scene that slightly references NATURAL BORN KILLERS with a flashback to trashy television to explain why Chelios is such a complete jerk. High Voltage is a complete hodgepodge of pop-culture references on speed and taken to a hyper-nihilistic extreme. And it has the potential to serve as a touchstone for all over-the-top action films to come.
This film is a hard-R. Prepare to wince. In a protracted self-mutilation scene, the tension is almost too much. The film seems to want to hurt its viewer. It is so unrelentingly rough that by the end of the movie, the shotgun dipped in motor-oil sodomy scene at the beginning seems strangely innocent.
CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE is an ugly film. It is mean-spirited, and it knows it. It wears its ugliness like a badge and bludgeons all who watch it. When Statham/Chelios breaks the fourth wall and finally interacts with the audience, all he can do is flip you off, and I am sure he means it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

CRANK 1 in anticipation of CRANK 2


CRANK 1 is a film concerned with titillation, testosterone, extreme violence, cringeworthy images, and all out shock value. There is no message about the ills of society, just a fascinated, prolonged view of Los Angeles' horribly venal crime scene put to humor and extreme rock video editing. In the end the film's absolute vulgarity is something that should put the fear of the apocalypse into every human being.


That being said, the push (and loud Internet reception) for CRANK 2 is fascinating to me. Lion's Gate has been pushing CRANK 2 like there is no tomorrow. They update their Twitter daily with information on the subject. More and more pictures are showing up online. There is a game you can play on the SMS network where they text you every so often and you have to text back the word "voltage" to be considered for a thousand dollar prize. Their official CRANK 2 website proudly defies you to "type in a cuss word and get this bitch started." It is all an over the top celebration of some of the most exquisite nihilism to ever grace the big screen.


I saw CRANK 1 in the theaters when it was released, and the film made me squirm throughout. Most of the squirming was a result of knowing where the standard R-Rated line was and watching the film stomp right over it.


The new CRANK 2 trailers are all about Jason Statham's Chev Chelios now needing to be juiced up with electricity to keep his heart pumping. The idea of a man using his right nipple for the negative and hooking his tongue to the positive clamp of a jumper cable and having someone stomp the gas to give a charge is so over the top that it is funny. The idea of Chelios being beaten Rodney King style and then overpowering the police as soon as he gets some tazer juice is funny too. There are concepts like shotgun sodomy and an outright penisectomy that are cringe-inspiring as well. CRANK2 is looking like a brutal, cartoonish ride down dirtier gutters filled with even more concepts that will make us all twitch.


So I fired up my CRANK 1 DVD and watched it again, looking for that which is propelling me to part 2. As you probably know, CRANK is about a hitman who wakes up to a DVD with the words "F*CK YOU" written on it. As Chev Chelios watches the DVD he learns that he has been poisoned by some sort of "Chinese cocktail" that should kill him shortly. Chelios then goes on a rampage looking for the guy who poisoned him, and in the process learning that he needs to be adrenalized in order to prolong his life. The concept of adrenaline is explored through sex, street drugs and extreme behavior using cars, guns, knives, human shields, and more guns.


CRANK is nonstop trash. Every stereotype, every curseword, every foul gesture, and every bodily function is lampooned in one way or another. The violence is senseless and gratuitous. If there is a woman onscreen, there is no doubt that the camera will linger on her posterior or any of her exposed flesh. At points, the perversity is left for the viewer to figure out. An example of this happens towards the end of the film at the hotel where the final showdown takes place. There are two girls in a tar pit. One of them looks like she is possibly extracting tar from the other's face while squealing? I will never get it even though I went through that 3 second spot about 12 times. The officers of the LAPD are demonstrated as complete morons, and Chelios actually manages to steal a motorcop's bike while sporting a hard-on and a hospital gown. Hands are cut off, fingers are removed violently and in one particular scene, a gangster's hand is forced under the needle of a whirring sweat-shop sewing machine.

All of the cursing, explosions, blood and bullets lead to what can only be described as the only human moment in the movie--Chev Chelios' touching last phone call as he falls from a helicopter before landing in a parked car deathbounce.

Technically, there is no point to the story. Chelios was hired to kill a crime lord and is then double crossed by his employer. But at the end of the film, we learn that he never did kill the crime lord, and Chelios uses his "spared hit's" backup to bring about the absolutely spastic concluding firefight.

This film is a cacophony of teenage video game angst. When I say "video game," I am tapping into the truth of the whole concept. Video games are referenced constantly. Chelios tells his girlfriend that he is not a video game designer but a contract killer. The symbol for the men's room looks more like a character from STERN'S classic game BERZERK. As a matter of fact, one of the many dispatched henchmen in the game is seen playing BERZERK in the back of an armored Hummer.

CRANK 1 is definitely a fecal trumpet blast announcing the end of Western Civilization as we know it. There is no question that our society is doomed. I just hope I get to see CRANK 2 before we are all cast into darkness.

More of my musings can be found HERE. Furthermore, you can contact me at mailto:admin@mediasaurs.comcom

Thursday, April 2, 2009

DEAD SNOW - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


I reviewed this one for those pimps at MYMAVRA.